How to Improve Your Skill Set and Keep Skills Current

By Indeed Editorial Team

April 2, 2021

Skill sets vary based on interests, personality traits and natural abilities. With the right combination, you can reach your goals and become an expert in your field. In this article, we define a skill set, explain the different types and discuss how to identify your skill set. We also explain how to develop your skills and provide tips to keep them relevant.

What is a skill set?

A skill set is a combination of knowledge, abilities and personal qualities. You develop your skill set through education and experience, and it can help you get a job, become proficient in a field and perform tasks well.

Types of skill sets

There are two primary types of skill sets:

1. Soft Skills

These are skills that allow you to work well with other people. Soft skills relate to how you communicate with your colleagues, manage work situations and solve problems. Here are some examples of soft skills:

  • communication

  • teamwork

  • problem-solving

  • time management

  • critical thinking

  • creativity

  • leadership

  • organizational

Hiring managers look for applicants with strong soft skills because they are a great way to measure teamwork. Sometimes, they also employ candidates with more soft skills than hard skills. For example, you may seek a role as a project manager but lack previous knowledge of risk assessment tools. If your references can convince hiring managers of your soft skills such as leadership, communication and interpersonal skills, recruiters may bring you on instead of another applicant who only has relevant hard skills.

Soft skills also indicate whether an applicant is likely to stay at an organization long-term.

Related: A Guide to Soft Skills

2. Hard Skills

These are skills you learn by repetition, practice or education. They are important to employers because they help to increase productivity.

Here are some examples of hard skills:

  • SEO marketing

  • bookkeeping

  • computer skills

  • forklift operation

  • an industry-specific certification

  • a degree

  • presentation skills

  • marketing skills

  • proofreading

Job postings almost always include hard skills. When applying for a role, ensure you show that you have the required relevant hard skills. Hiring managers typically ask for industry tests, certifications or previous experience with such skills. Some provide on-the-job training.

You can break hard and soft skills down into:

  • Hybrid skills: These are a mix of hard and soft skills. Hybrid skills depend on the job and the demands of the hiring company. For example, business management is a hybrid skill. You need to have excellent interpersonal skills and know how to use spreadsheets or analysis tools.

  • Transferable skills: These are skills that apply to any role across all industries.

  • Job-specific skills: Hiring managers may have certain soft or hard skills that they require for a job. For example, employers may need an accountant with marketing skills.

How to identify your skill set

Identifying the skills you have can help you understand those to improve and how to write an interesting resume. Follow these steps to discover your skills:

  • Find tasks you enjoy doing. Your hobbies and other activities that get your full attention can tell you what skills you already have. For example, becoming the captain of your lacrosse team can help you discover that you have strong leadership skills.

  • Consider your previous accomplishments. Think of a situation when you won an award or received a certificate and the skills you used. For example, an award for the most innovative employee in your organization can help you realize that you have excellent creative skills.

  • Learn about your strengths. Consider tasks that people have complimented you for and evaluate your previous roles. Typically, these tasks require little effort from you. For example, knowing how to perform several tasks simultaneously can translate to exceptional time management skills.

  • Use a skill assessment tool. An online tool can also help you identify your soft and hard skills. For example, you can take a programming test or problem-solving quiz online.

Steps to develop new skills

Follow these six steps to developing new skills:

1. Have a plan and set goals

You must have goals before you develop skills. Consider setting SMART goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

Read more: SMART Goals: Objectives for Your Career

2. Get a mentor

Find a mentor who is an expert in the skill you want to develop. They can provide guidelines, lead you in the right direction, give feedback on performance and give improvement suggestions. You can also shadow this professional on the job to learn about their daily duties and responsibilities.

3. Take online courses

Enrolling in online degree programs is a great way to explore and develop new skills. Organizations encourage this method of learning, and some provide financial help to employees.

4. Get feedback

To develop new skills, you must have honest feedback from your family, friends, colleagues or supervisors. Feedback helps you monitor your personal growth and progress.

5. Join professional associations

Taking part in activities with professional associations is another way to learn about new skills and how to develop them. While there are professional associations on the federal level, you can also join provincial and territorial associations. For example, if you're interested in developing artistic skills and working as a creative, you could join the Assembly of British Columbia Arts Council or attend events they host.

6. Attend company training

Organizations often train employees on the skills they need for the job. Taking advantage of these training sessions can help you improve your skill set. Ask your manager or experienced professionals for upcoming training opportunities and how they can affect your professional development.

What skills should you include on your resume?

Review the job description for the role you are applying for before writing skills on your resume. Having the right hard and soft skills shows you are a great fit for the job. When creating your resume, also consider adding a ‘Skills' section.

The skills you should include on your resume are:

  • Skills found in a job description: The skills you highlight on your resume must show hiring managers you are a good fit for the job and your skills match those they're seeking.

  • Functional skills: These are skills you can transfer to different work settings. They include skills such as teamwork, communication and technology literacy skills.

  • Adaptive skills: These are the personal traits that help you perform your duties. Individuals develop them during childhood or through life experiences. Adaptive skills include coachability and responsibility.

  • S**kills from related fields:** Look at similar fields and find skills that successful professionals have. For example, if you're a data scientist, you can include skills that an employer wants to see in a software engineer.

  • General skills: These include universal skills like critical thinking and punctuality. Consider listing very few general or universal skills on your resume since they are qualities other applicants may have. Instead, add relevant technical skills that make you stand out among other candidates.

Tips to keep your skill set relevant

Whether you're applying for a job or looking for a promotion, keeping your skills current can make you stand out.

Here are some ways to keep your skills relevant:

  • Attend workshops. This is a great way to update your skills by learning from industry leaders.

  • Connect with professionals. Follow experts on social media. By contacting industry leaders, you can learn about the skills employers look for and decide which ones to focus on.

  • Attend conferences. Going to conferences and networking events is a great way to learn and compare your skills with those of other professionals. Many conferences also have seminars.

  • Read journals and research papers. Journals and magazines are great sources of information. By reading them, you can stay current with the latest activities in your field and how others are updating their skills.

  • Volunteer and ask for more responsibilities. You can develop your skills and keep your skill set relevant by volunteering for activities. Ask your supervisor for additional responsibilities and how you can help build your skill set as a volunteer.

Sample of resume skills

Below are a few examples of resume skills for in-demand jobs.

Example 1: Customer care representative

Skills:

  • creativity

  • active listening

  • effective communication

  • conflict resolution

  • decision-making

    Example 2: Marketer

Skills:

  • mobile advertising

  • communication

  • creativity

  • critical thinking

  • people management

  • content management systems

    Example 3: Nurse

Skills:

  • urgent care

  • critical thinking and problem-solving

  • excellent communication skills

  • time management

    Example 4: Graphic designer

Skills

  • creativity

  • time management

  • communication

  • computer

  • artistry

Example 5: Project manager

Skills

  • data analysis

  • active listening

  • effective communication

  • cost control

  • software proficiency

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